Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Music coverage a bigger problem than mere lack of criticism

We recognise the lack of quality music criticism since the traditional press decided Everything is Great and the online community largely failed to take up a more objective role (this was never a mission statement of the blogs, but one would have expected more from the likes of Pitchfork, Fact, Quietus and so on, and not just cheap shots at the easy targets too). This has not developed solely because we have all become always tuned-in desperate hipsters, it reflects the much bigger issues of the decommoditisation and mass availability of music. If everything is free or at least cheap to buy and easy to get hold of, it looks like we have to suffer the correlative impact of a non-critical commentariat. Like, if no-one's making money out of this, let's at least give them a fair crack of the whip at getting their music heard and liked (and most online mags have direct links to where you can buy the stuff they review, further streamlining the process for the consumer).

There are great critics around online of course, but where once a writer could encapsulate his or her worldview from a deft feature on a band in the inkies, now our best talent is not content merely to restrict their aegis to music and therefore explicitly covers other fields as a priority. That's a good development for culture as a whole, but unfortunately it leaves the likes of Morley with too much lingering influence in music.

But the issue is not just about the need for more impartial reviewing - it concerns the quality of writing itself. We're often guilty in relying on the cliche or easy associative term as a lack of imagination to describe this immaterial object takes hold. Expect to see any number of these terms used in any bogstandard 'review' these days. Playing bingo, as another non-critical portal that came up with it suggests, is optional.
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